A Horned Lark is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Horned Larks. We have also put together a list of fun Horned Lark t-shirts, Horned Lark bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird watching items.
About the Horned Lark
They are small birds that frequent open fields. You can find them stumbling as they search for seeds on the ground. When disturbed they make swift and twisting flights making melodious calls. They are native in North America and frequent deserts and tundra. There has been a sharp decline in their population in the last decade. Some of their distinctive features include:
Description and Identification
Horned Larks are small, long-bodied songbirds about 6.3 – 7.9 inches that have a horizontal
posture. They have short, thin bills, short necks, and rounded heads. They have two small
tufts of feathers that stick out of the back of their heads that resemble horns, hence their
namesake. Males are sandy to rusty-brown above with black chest bands, curving black
masks, and head stripes that extend to the back of the head. Their faces and throats are
either yellow or white and can vary between regions. Females have similar head and breast
patterns but lack the prominent black masks that males have. They have a slight yellow
wash on the throat a brown breast band instead of black.
Horned Lark Color Pattern
These medium-sized larks have dark brown upperparts and white underparts. Their ear tufts are white and have a yellow-white throat. They have a dark tail with white edges. The black stripes extending to the back of their head make them easy to spot.
Horned Lark Size
They are larger than a savannah sparrow but dwarfed by an eastern meadowlark. They are small but long-bodied birds that assume a horizontal body posture. They have rounded heads and a short and thin bill.
The relative size of both sexes
- Length range: 6.3-7.9 in (16-20 cm)
- Weight: 1.0-1.7 oz (28-48 g)
- Wingspan range: 11.8-13.4 in (30-34 cm)
Horned Lark Behavior
They are social birds that thrive in flocks before and after the breeding seasons. They forage on the ground either walking or running looking for small insects to devour. In the breeding season, they often forage in flocks. In winter, they usually mix with other open field species.
What Horned Lark Eat
These birds feed on seeds and insects. Nestlings primarily consume insects and other
invertebrates due to the need for protein but gradually begin to consume plant-based food
as well. Adults also consume insects to integrate protein into their diets. Their insect prey
mainly includes grasshoppers, beetles, sowbugs, earthworms, spiders, snails, and
caterpillars. Most of their food is gleaned from the ground, but they sometimes perch on
plants to harvest seeds. Their plant-based diet includes sprouting lettuce, wheat, waste
grain, berries, grasses, and other crop seedlings.
They predominantly feed on seeds and insects. Horned Larks feed on seeds from various grasses and weeds. During summer, they feed heavily on insects making up half of their diet. They can also feed on spiders, snails, and berries from low plants.
Where Horned Larks Live
Horned Larks can be found abundantly in low and high altitudes. They tend to favor bare,
dry grounds with areas of short and sparse vegetation. It has been observed that they avoid
areas where grasses grow more than a couple of inches high. In high altitudes and latitudes,
these birds may forage on snowfields during the day but mostly feed in areas free of snow.
The most common habitats that they are found in include prairies, deserts, tundra, beaches,
dunes, and heavily grazed pastures. They also frequent areas that are cleared by humans,
such as plowed fields and mowed expanses. The birds that migrate during the winter mix
with other birds found in open grounds, and are frequently observed along roadsides,
feedlots, and fields with abundant waste grains and manure.
Horned Larks thrive in open grounds and areas with short vegetation. They frequent deserts, tundra, dunes, beaches, and prairies. They also thrive in areas cleared by humans such as cultivated gardens. At high cool altitudes, they forage on snowfields mostly in the afternoon.
Range and Migration
Horned Larks – also known as Shore Larks in Europe – are a species of lark found across
the northern hemisphere. They range from Alaska and Northern Canada to southern
Mexico. The migration patterns of these birds depend on where their breeding grounds lie.
Birds with the breeding grounds in Alaska and northern Canada migrate to southern Canada
and the northern Pacific coast of the United States. Some may migrate further southwards
towards the Atlantic coasts along with the United States as well. Populations that breed through
the United States and Mexico are year-round residents and do not migrate.
Horned Lark Lifecycle
The females lay 3-4 eggs and incubate them for 10-12 days. Both parents feed the nestlings and they are able to leave the nest after 9-12 days. They fledge a week after this. Their lifespan is 1-5 years in the wild.
Horned Lark Nesting
Horned Larks nest early spring with male defending the nesting territory by singing. The
the nesting site is selected by the females alone on bare ground with either a natural
depression, or with soft soil in order for them to excavate the depressions themselves.
Cavities are made by loosening the soil with their bills or by kicking dirt away with their feet. After
a depression is created, a basket is woven out of fine grass and other finer plant material.
Small roots and shredded cornstalks are also often used for the outer cup. The inner lining is
done with fur, feathers, fine rootlets, lint, and sometimes strings to ensure sufficient
insulation for the nestling. Females can have 1 – 3 broods each season with the average
size of the clutch ranging from 2 – 5 eggs.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Horned Larks
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Horned Larks are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Horned Lark T-shirts
If you love the Horned Lark you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Horned Lark Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Horned Lark is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Horned Lark Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Horned Lark. Here is the sticker pack we sell with a Horned Lark sticker.
Bird Feeders For Horned Lark
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Horned Lark
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.